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IBM expands WebSphere's portal tools

New WebSphere tools for grabbing data from human resources systems and other back-end applications are meant to improve formal and improvised collaboration.

IBM announced on Tuesday a series of enhancements for WebSphere Portal Application Integrator, the company's set of tools for building corporate Web applications.

WPAI is part of IBM's WebSphere family of products for creating corporate portals, internal Web sites that allow workers to view corporate data through a customized interface.

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The new tools are intended to make it easier for companies to create applications that display and consume data from back-end systems, such as human resources databases, said Tim Thatcher, IBM program director of portal and workspace products.

WPAI will offer a greater selection of "portlets," applications for common portal tasks. Companies can use the portlets as-is or customize them.

"We want to make it easy for customers to integrate the various business processes and applications into a portal," Thatcher said. "One of the things we find a lot of customers doing is providing self-service human resources portals, for example, so we've included portlets for that."

WebSphere Portal has also been outfitted with new document functions, including the ability to import and export documents to and from a portal, and to do lightweight editing within the portal. Other portlets will link with to help workers find and manage shared documents.

Thatcher said the goal is to accommodate a variety of collaboration situations, from impromptu document editing to more elaborate team sessions. "If I can collaborate at the point of need--without necessarily having to go to a buddy list or open a new window--it becomes more useful," he said.